These solar power products will change the way you travel
Words & images Glenn Marshall

The market is flooded with portable power products claiming to keep you charged up and save you space at the same time. Some fulfill the marketing gobbledygook, many don’t. So, when Pocket Power Australia suggested I try out some of its gear on my adventure travels, I accepted and here is what I discovered.

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120-WATT FOLDING FLEXI SOLAR PANEL
My first thoughts when I unpacked the lightweight and compact solar panel were how far we’ve come in producing smaller, more powerful panels. The flexible Sun Power Monocrystalline cells peak at 7.5 amps and are rated as 120 watts yet pack to the size of the Hema Easy Read Road Atlas and weigh in at only 2.5kg.

The camo cover gives the panels a rugged look and the clips are solid, keeping the panels secure when closed. The kit comes with a 10-amp MPPT regulator, amp/volt meter, metal legs and 5m cable, plenty long enough for portable panels.  If it’s too long you may suffer voltage drop, however, I tested with the amp/volt meter at the panel end and the battery end and there were no significant changes to the readings.

The set-up instructions are short and sweet with the only downfall being all connections are Anderson-plug-style, so you will need to source an adapter if you need alligator clips to connect to your batteries. The MPPT regulator connects to the solar panel via a plug that hides in the zip pouch on the rear of the first panel. The extension cable then connects to the second plug on the MPPT. Plug the amp/volt meter to the other end of the extension cable before connecting to your battery.

After all the cables are connected, you can hide the MPPT in the zip pocket once you have checked that it has the charge light flashing and the amp/volt meter is displaying data.

The measurement screen continually displays voltage status, amps in and total watts with the figures updated every two seconds. It also scrolls amp hours, watt hours, average amps, minimum volts and peak watts with the data updated every 0.4 seconds. I did find that the backlight on the amp/volt meter LCD display wasn’t too good so the figures were sometimes difficult to read.

I played follow the sun for a few hours and although I couldn’t crack 7.5 amps, I was still able to average between five and six amps. I placed the solar panels on my windscreen, flat on the ground and with the set of three aluminium legs and the results were consistent.

To be able to purchase a product such as this for under $700 is a bargain and I was certainly happy with the portability, ease of storage, ruggedness and performance. I was told I could hose the panels down to clean them, but I didn’t take that chance and possibly damage a great piece of equipment.

6.5-WATT PORTABLE POWER PACK WITH SOLAR PANEL

As a landscape photographer, I use equipment that requires constant charging. Having the ability to do this as I hike to the perfect spot is a big winner. If it is flexible, lightweight and easy to use, it adds even more value.

When hiking, I was able to clip the 6.5-watt solar panel to my backpack and plug the 10,0000mAh portable battery into it. While I walked, it charged. There is a zip pocket on the rear of the solar panel that held the battery in place, another tick for the product. I could also plug my smartphone or tablet and charge them directly.

The solar panel is small and light weighing only 550g with dimensions of 30cm x 20cm x 3cm. The charging cable has a mini lightning cable, a mini USB cable and an iPad cable coming from a solitary USB – brilliant! It comes packaged with small suction cups and carabiners meaning the panel can be stuck to any window, clipped to a backpack or hung off an awning. Being so versatile is another tick.

The portable battery weighs 240g and is 14.4cm x 8cm x 1.5cm with a waterproof/dustproof design. As well as being charged via the solar panel, it can also be charged via a micro USB cable meaning it can be plugged into a PC, USB charger in your vehicle or RV.

The portable battery has two power out USB ports one at 5V/1amp, the other at 5V/2amps meaning two items can be charged at the same time. I recharged my iPhone seven times before the portable battery needed charging. I was also able to charge some of my camera accessories allowing some great long exposure shots. At $150, it is competitively priced.

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